Mummified forest discovered in Arctic Circle

Posted Dec 16, 2010 by Chanah Rubenstein
Just north of the Canadian Arctic Circle, research scientist Joel Barker of Ohio State University found the remains of a mummified forest. The forest is between two and eight million years old.
Courtesy of National Geographic wallpaper
He discovered dried out birch, larch, spruce and pine trees while camping on Ellesmere Island in 2009.
"At one point I crested a small ridge and the cliff face below me was just riddled with wood," he said, according to NPR.
This past summer, with a research grant behind him, he went back to the site. The preserved remains of tree trunks, leaves and needles were buried by an avalanche some 2 million to 8 million years ago.
There are a dozen mummified forests in the Canadian Arctic, but this newly discovered forest is the furthest north.
The site shows signs of plant life desperately trying to adapt to a changing climate. The forest existed in a time when temperatures were hotter than what we experience now, but the temperatures dropped rapidly, down to its currently frozen state.
"This community was just hanging on," said Barker, NPR reports.
The research team suspects that the lack of diverse species means the plant life struggled to survive the fast change, going from deciduous to evergreen trees.
The next step is to see how the plant life struggled to survive the climate change by examining the tree rings. The hope is to see how our current Arctic tundra ecosystem will adapt to climate change. Barker also plans to take DNA samples on the mummified remains.
Barker presented his findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Thursday.